The Beautiful and the Damned

The morning is balmy and close, hot already in the early shining rays of summer sun. As I watch the buildings begin to glisten in the light, a wet fog pulls in nearly obscuring what I know to be there, angles and lines which have been there for as long as I can remember. Tracing my gaze over his face as he sleeps in perfect breathy silence, I wonder who I am sometimes and how I got here into a place both familiar and unknown. There has always been a part of me which was detached, sifting, both here and away, both touchable and untouchable. We are born into a game which has two sides and no way to win, only ways to keep kicking the can down the road. Only ways to keep flipping the coin until it all stops for good. Today, heads. Tomorrow, a tailspin, perhaps, or the same old thing underneath what you wish you could bring about but haven’t the skills nor the energy. Having little tolerance for sleeping in, I pull my ever lengthening strawberry golden waves into a knot, slide out of the warmth of our bed, and tip toe off to the kitchen for coffee. The salons have opened up again and my favorite one calls and leaves me voicemails which I ignore. Come back in, we’re open! A cheerful pleading desperation. As if by making an appointment for a haircut I’d have cured something no one yet knows how to cure; soothed a fear no one can bear to feel shocking through their hearts minute by minute; affirmed a truth we all know is fabrication. We are not okay. We have not been okay. So very little of what is happening is okay. I drove by the other day on the way to the liquor store and saw the tiny salon parking lot overflowing with cars. Ah, yes, the herds are herding, the flocks are flocking, all trimmed and tweezed, waxed and highlighted back into a perverted kind of normal which I increasingly despise.

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Photo by Daniele D’Andreti

The Beat Goes On

In the early morning light as it cuts corners into stark shapes along the buildings arranged in rows, a kind of hot energy bends and breaks itself upon the edges of the shadows. I hear and see things they cannot perceive and it both drains and fortifies me. Watch as the sun rises and falls, remember it stays the same, remember it is motionless and without need. White as cold ice melting at the bottom of a late night glass. As I fold my few things into a suitcase, the ocean plays itself in soft foam waves in my mind. Where in the world can we ever be free, but we try and we try and we run the pavement. He pours his coffee in the kitchen, I hear the mug slide onto the marble counter and something inside of me echoes inside of his daily routine. How do we tear our hearts out of this place. Sweet froths of pleasure sewn into the pain. Landscapes, seascapes, the heart is a difficult unnatural terrain. A summer of protests, the heat of violence, injustice, screaming and wrecking and pleading in the steaming streets. As I was taking down the words of Janaya Khan, something in their beauty tore a fire straight down the center of me. The Future. Their words full of fists, their soul full of dazzling light. I want to be changed. I want their hands on my skin, my wrists, my face, fingers in my blood. Don’t let me stay too long; don’t let me stay the same. They say the only punch that hurts is the one you don’t see coming. Eyes open now, beloved. Head up now, child. It’s time we learned ourselves a tough lesson. It’s time we held each other closer to the flames.

One Trick Pony

Kseniya Petukhova

The morning is cool and still, dimly lit underneath a light washed peach colored sky. As I sip coffee and listen to the birds singing wild and free outside my window, it occurs to me that I can’t go back to the way I was, and I sure as fuck don’t know how to move forward. The gurus would tell us to “be here now” I suppose, so perhaps I’ll start with that. My body is here now typing of course, but my mind skims over the happenings of the past few weeks. I would rather not obsess over what has transpired, but alas, such is the nature of an obsession. You can’t want the thing you want the most. It’s all a flutter, a multifaceted blur of emotion, drama, karma, clashes, fits of anger, sadness, rage, fear, lit up here and there with tiny flecks of shimmering hope. Not sure what if anything you know about me by now but I am just like everybody else. Neuroses, addictions, stupid mistakes, bad choices, dirty desires. The thing is no one is ever completely themselves on the outside, and I am no different. On the inside I am wracked with dreams, visions, ideas, heartaches, shadows, secrets. When I get it right, I can write of these internal things, I can conjure them, send them shooting up like bright flares into the dark velvet skies of night. Do you see me? Have we connected if only in the few seconds my hidden light scatters itself across your beautiful face, as you gaze up at the stars praying for the same absolution I do? In a few days I will be by the sea, this I look forward to very much. I have missed the expansive sight of the ocean, the sunlight flashing along the waves in the morning, bathing in tangerine and electric pinks at dusk. In times of extreme turmoil it seems only natural to reach for surroundings which remind us of who we really are, which ground us in the tangible, textured elements of earth, wind, fire, water. What is the story you tell about yourself to the ones you love? Do you tell it straight out or do you bend it toward who you want to be, someone better, more brave and less afraid? Toward who you wish you were, or who you wish they thought you were when they look at you? If the past is an illusion and the future anyone’s guess, perhaps all I can tell you is this: I’m here now. And in a world as mad as this one, I try very hard not to lose myself. I chart out plans, and write poetry, read the news, pack my bags, and just like you, I make my bets on what any of this might be worth.

The Patterns of the Mind

by Jacob Mejicanos

It is possible to be out of words, I know because it terrifies me as often as not, it comes and goes. I am a writer and it happens all the time but being out of words is easy, you just write some more until you can start to fit them together and make a little story. Make them into something people like to look at, look through, make their own, or project back onto you. Then again, it is possible to be so full of words you are choked by them into a crippling type of silence. They could be your own words, they could be the words of those around you, it has become harder and harder to tell. And there are so many people around you. So many, many voices. Telling you what to do and feel and think, how to act, who to believe!!! Who to believe. But you need to decide that for yourself. Through the noise, you peel back the curtain and you make your selections. You carve out a cause and you make a sign. Women and children and men in any order. So many voices around you. Perhaps they’ll tell you what to say. But it’s nothing you haven’t heard before only now it’s very loud. Only now it is louder and louder. And the ones lifting you up are the ones holding you down. But all you want is to be touched anyway so little by little there are tiny erosions in the difference. It is possible the end is near or, even worse, the beginning. It could be we are only just at the beginning of increased cruelty, well, some of us. (It’s a continuum, you see. Don’t you see?) This seems most likely, although they would prefer you don’t speak about that. “They.” Such a spooky term to use. How jarring to have it fall from my fingertips so easily. And to understand exactly what I mean so clearly, unequivocally. (Did you?) They need to pull us apart to get inside where they can do the rest of the job they came to do. There are cracks in the ceiling. My eyes trail over them back and forth as I listen to the voices. Listen. Listen. Listen. Sounds like skin. I suck the smoke through the gaps in my teeth. I swallow. I spit. I break a fingernail and chew. See if you can notice the inflections in the tone, the sarcasm and the degradation. See if you can get at your own sense of worth in spite of everything else trying to convince you otherwise. Recite the words in small phrases, small bites. Try to go fast without thinking, you know what that’s probably it: you probably just think too much. Forget it. Just select your five hundred words a day. It’s okay if this was really tough for you to put together. It’s okay if they don’t understand you right away. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.

Cuts of Light

My mouth is dry from cigarettes and wine and as I fumble my arm around in the dark reaching for my water glass, I knock the full thing over and listen as the liquid I desperately need down my throat now trickles down the bedside table instead. Fuck. It’s two in the morning and my veins are thundering blood through my thin body like the threat of a thousand wild horses set to stampede across my chest. I get these weird sensations once in a while. Palpitations or so they say, mostly it just feels like fluttering ruptures which are not unpleasant, just startling. I think about thinking and when I do, I do it too hard and can’t seem to make it stop. I meditate in the mornings, I think it helps but my mind wanders to places it shouldn’t and anxiety creeps into the tiny cracks where anxiety had previously let me alone, hence the wine and the cigarettes and the various attempts made at poetry or whatever else comes to creative mind. A lot of people are making those cut apart collages these days and sharing them online. We jam foreign objects together hoping to disintegrate the distance keeping us alive. We dabble and we try things and we make a mess and glue it all back together only upside down with glitter and we take pills to help us sleep all the while the rocky stars peer down, unfeeling in a cold vast place we will only ever dream about but never see up close. In times like these when time both races past and stands still as death all the same, it’s hard to tell if the ache in my bones comes from sitting too long in one place hunched over myriad books, notes, and screens or because every time I skim through social media feeds my chest contracts and my shoulders end up hung tight from my earlobes. Such a shit show, such a crying shame of a situation every which way you look at it. Staring at the dark wooden blades of the ceiling fan as they whirl in a silent circle of blackness, I can just make out the dim lines where hazy blue moon glow sharpens their rotating edges. If I hold my breath, I can hear the faintest movement of the air splitting itself to let the slats of the fan pass through. That’s what I need. Something which cuts through the noise and allows the thinness of my soul to slide on through. I move a warm hand underneath the blankets and place it on my bare stomach. My heart quickens at my own tender touch. I stroke my own skin, feel my own body. I bite my soft lip, and turn my head to take note of the time. My eyes and the dark halls of my strung out mind, still searching.

Don’t Even Say It

Tracing the outline of a tiny penciled in flower in my notebook, I’m listening to some guy speak stale office speak on a video call as my mind drifts out the open window into the honeyed springtime air of late afternoon. It’s a little after three and I’m already fading into fantasies of a smooth glass of wine in the back garden as the setting tangerine sunlight glistens along the water beaded stem. My mind just stops these days. Where I used to go, go, go on to the next, now I am halted in body and spirit by a peculiar feeling I have never known before. A feeling like an uncomfortably extended dramatic pause. It is the sensation of a life suspended, suddenly stilled, thrown into stark relief. An inability to move as the rest of the world appears to be rushing by without so much as a sideways glance in my direction. I am left behind. No, I am being left behind; it is a process I am forced to watch happening over and over and over each day. Rewind and repeat. While there are those who fetishize a return to normal, there are also those of us who know that would be a terrible mistake. We wonder how we got here in the first place. Too many wrong turns down dark and ruinous roads. We always think we will see it coming or at least have some inkling, some clue, how far in which direction we should go. But there is no should and there is no road carved neatly along a path not yet taken. Pouring a coffee, I exit the call and sink down into a pile of books wondering where to begin a thing which has long since already begun and ended a countless number of times before. This life, they’ll have you fooled well into believing it is a straight line when nothing could be farther from the truth. How often the future ends up tossing you three steps back even as the ghosts of the past loom larger in your mind than they may appear in the rear view mirror. I remember the first warm Sunday afternoon of the season, driving fast with the windows down, swaths of sunlight rushing across his face, cast down through the trees which line an empty old riverside town. We laugh as we race the back roads just to feel like we’re getting somewhere. To make the rings around our circuitous lives stretch and blur until they finally disappear.

On the Edge of Nothing Certain

Morning sun intrudes. The blank screen glows dull in comparison while neither offer a lick of inspiration. Stick figure cursor blinks, blinks, blinks and some things never seem to change. Before I even think to do it myself, he brings me a second cup of coffee and when he kisses me I drown in that beautiful mouth. There are some kisses which need nothing else before or after. He knows this, and I love this madly about him. The coffee is strong as I sip while gazing out across the tree tops, they bend this way and that with the rush of a strong gust of cool wind. It’s all too bright, it all causes my eyes to change. The spring breeze sweeps in across a handmade Italian statue of the blessed virgin, curtains billowing into the quiet study. I think about all the women I have been. All the women in me. There is the cusp of something in the smallness of the hours I try to curl my fingers around. Something to grasp, something to take hold of to pull me up out of this hazy confusion which seems to have overtaken me. Writing is impossible. The words, each and every word is tough as nails. The days stretch out languid before me. I fill them with books and try to imagine what comes next. I think perhaps too hard, perhaps not hard enough, about the things we can control and the things we cannot. Everyone seems to draw their own conclusions. Anger and fear overwhelm so I shut everything down. Close the media feeds, click off the screens. Video faces of friends, bored and alone making cocktails, making no plans for nothing at all. The distance between this fresh morning and the rest of what is to come is impossible to measure. We are unsure in the handling of the minutes inside our daily lives. We are empty pages, hesitant. Walking alone out onto the edge of nothing certain yet to come.

Shadows and Light

Your skin is warm against my mouth as I graze my lips across your chest and breathe you in. An image flashes into my mind of an ocean roaring against a sandy beach, you standing tall and tanned and glowing against the misty blue. The sky falling into the bedroom all around us is gray and dim as I move slowly, tasting every inch of you, licking you hot down low. The end of the world will be a sweet explosion, you will beg me for it as I take you again and again with fingers and tongue. Out on the streets below there are dirty striped pigeons strutting their tiny feet across the empty filthy pavements, pecking at crumbs, darting their necks in and out of the corners of abandoned buildings. Beady eyes like vacant blacked out suns. You are writhing, glistening in the sweat of taut pleasure upon the bed, linen gasps for lilac air. I like to watch your face as your lips say my name. You always sound so desperately sincere, it tears my heart a little to work at you like this. I like to play soft music while I bathe as you sit against the tub smoking your cigarette, the curls of whiteness drifting out the open window as the fiery sun sinks into the earth. You tell me about growing up as a rowdy teenager sneaking beer in the woods behind the grade school and getting in stupid fights to impress the pretty girls. The same shit everybody got into but you didn’t know anything else existed in your small town. How to get by, how to pass the time when nothing really matters except yourself. Not much changes except now there is less time to play with and so much more to lose. It is late afternoon when the slit of the moon appears behind some thin clouds. It is early evening when you lose your mind. I pour us some drinks, crawl back into bed like a life boat lost at sea, but motionless. I trace your beautiful body in soft curved lines.

Fire Sign

The night is cut through with sharp bolts of jagged lightning in between thunder which slams itself so hard against the house the walls all around us rattle and tremble. Shaking me out of my dead slumber, my eyes dart across the room checking that the windows are closed to keep the driving rain from spilling in all over the hardwood floors. They are not closed, in fact, nor are the blinds which explains why the bedroom is cool with midnight air and shocked alive by the electric springtime storm. Four a.m. and now suddenly wide awake, I decide it’s as good a time as any to slide out of bed, make coffee and work on some writing as the rain streaks down in heavy sheets along the window pane in my writing room. Ever since I was a little kid I have romanticized the rain. Not people in the rain, not the rain where lovers kiss as they are drenched to their core, no. Just the rain all by itself, pouring out over lush forests, falling and rushing in streams through cobblestone city streets. Misting through a gray rolling morning fog. There is a quiet inside the rain, an honesty, a melancholy I crave inexplicably. My grandmother used to tell me that it is because I am a fire sign, Sagittarius. All the fire in my blood needs the rain, the dark, the coolness, on the outside to balance me out. Impossible to say if that is true or not, of course, but it makes for a beautifully poetic interpretation, I think, so I believe it to be the reason. As the coffee brews and morning light turns to powder blue over the rolling hills of newly budding trees, the rain all but moves off and fades away. Another day, same as the rest, dawns again and again and again in a rhythm I am much more aware of now. The days and nights hand themselves over to us on repeat, repeat, repeat. Like a beckoning. Like a bludgeoning. Skimming my journal, I see I have scribbled nothing much worth anything, so I stand and pour another cup, sipping in silence as I look out at the waking neighborhood. The thick branches of an old oak tree across the block reach boldly in every direction, wild and untamed, just as they did yesterday, and every day before. Everything is still as the little lights click on, one by one by one. High above the street, I sit waiting, watching, breathing. Pen to paper. Hour to hour. Fingers to keys. Mostly, though, somewhere deep inside my bones, I’m restless. A static voice skips like a record, I miss the storm.

In the Shape of Chaos

“Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark. In the midst of chaos there was shape.”
-Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

The full moon is a giant pumpkin colored disc as we watch it sliding down in the black early morning sky through our bedroom window. You hold me for a few more warm minutes underneath the blankets before I break our cozy spell and crawl out of bed, pull on sweats, and head to the darkened kitchen to pour myself a cup of coffee in my favorite over-sized mug. Nestling in with my journals and books, I take a long hot sip while listening to the little birds outside coming to life with myriad songs. Not a soul is stirring on this pre-dawn morning but I can hear the traffic sifting along on the highway just under the bridge far off. The traffic never ever stops, not even for a second. I’ve got a tickle in my throat which I am immediately convinced is the deadly disease everyone is panicked over but I refuse to believe it because it’s too frightening to even consider at the moment. I refuse to cough. I will not cough. We hold on to our days a bit tighter now. As we drive through the city and past the state park built around a wide open lake, everything is closed down, blocked off, patrolled by police. There is an eerie feeling in this kind of safety precaution. It implies we are not equipped to handle ourselves in this crisis. It suggests the only way out of this alive is through the taking of drastic measures. The crossing of fingers, hoping for the best. Remember that restaurant with the great outdoor bar we frequent in summer? Remember how we sometimes couldn’t even find a parking spot? How hard do you think it will be to get a reservation when all this shit’s over? We laugh and drink wine from inside the car on the side of the road by the river as a couple wearing crudely fashioned face scarves meander past with their two tiny dogs. It’s a hell of a time to be alive. To witness. To experience. It’s like there’s a static crackling behind everything. A sound like the pulsing of blood through veins inside a body which is the entire human race, waiting. All around us as we drive and drive and drive to nowhere. Open roads in no particular season. Water, clouds, sky, trees. Wildflowers scattered and tangled along the grassy sides of the highway. What are you living for? For what would you die?